So, generous Chocolate Book supporter Matt Rizkallah sponsored a scripture doodle via my Patreon. For his doodle verse, he chose Psalm 51:6: “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.” And…oh no, what have I done.
The first half of this chapter concerns Paul’s concern for the Corinthian church. Specifically, he doesn’t want them to get suckered in by false teachings and the false teachers who teach them. It’s a problem mentioned obliquely and briefly in previous chapters, but here he brings it to the fore.
There are some things that it’s bad to be good at. For example, it’s bad to be good at getting drunk.
The city is a place of law and civilization. Humans exchange goods and services in the market, perform their day’s work, live in houses with their families, love and worship and celebrate together. The city is a place of safety in numbers, protection from the hazards of the wilderness. Or rather, it would be if it weren’t for all the wicked people.
You might think, as you begin reading Psalm 41, that David’s speaking from a place of smooth sailing. The first few verses are a blessing, much like Psalm 1 or Psalm 15, for those who are generous to those without means. The message seems to be “God helps those who help the helpless,” which sounds like a message of orientation: fair recompense for good deeds, right? And then David reveals that the helpless man in need of aid is himself. It’s a Psalm of Complaint.
I’m gonna propose an idea here. Each of these behaviors that David lists in vv.3-5 constitutes “walking with integrity” and is pleasing to God because man is made in God’s image and derives his value from the Creator that he images. Let’s go, point by point.
If you ever feel like you’re surrounded by liars, today’s psalm is for you. When David looks around, he sees faithful men turning their tongues to prevarication. I’ll be honest: when I first read the opening line, “Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases to be” (1), I immediately thought of Monty Python’s “This parrot is no more! It has ceased to be!” I thought the liars and schemers of the psalm were killing off the righteous men with their deception. But upon further reflection, I think the “godly man” here is ceasing to be because he’s abandoning his godliness for a liar’s tongue.